Sunday, July 15, 2007

The History of a Brand: Kalashnikov/AK-47

Today's Sunday Times has a very interesting article about the history of the Kalashnikov AK-47 rifle, and the dilemma of knockoffs. The original AK-47 turns sixty years old this year.

Even General Kalashnikov himself is venting his dismay over proliferation without Russian profit. “I take them into my hands and, my goodness, the marks are foreign,” he said of the knockoffs the Soviet Union once championed. “Yes, they look alike. But as to reliability and durability — they do not meet the high standards of our military.”
....
At the same events, Russian officials and arms manufacturers are clamoring over who should be allowed to put Kalashnikov rifles on the market.

Some arguments are based on quality, and Russia claims, without offering evidence, that the copies and clones are not as well made as the genuine article. There is some support for this on black markets in Iraq, where the Russian Kalashnikovs often fetch higher prices than their clones, although whether the rifles are better or simply more coveted is not clear.

Other arguments are rooted in what the Russians claim is law, as the arms industry insists that the factories that the Kremlin once sponsored, and now are in sovereign, post-Soviet countries, have no right to manufacture or sell items of Soviet design.

“More than 30 foreign companies, private and state based, continue the illegal manufacturing and copying of small arms,” said Sergey V. Chemezov, the former K.G.B. officer and confidant of Mr. Putin’s who directs Rosoboronexport, the state arms-marketing agency. “They undermine the reputation of the Kalashnikov.”

So far, few customers have paid notice. The largest customer in the market, the United States, has purchased whatever weapons it sees fit, coloring the AK-47’s 60th birthday, like much of Kalashnikov history, with another angry struggle.

“We cannot tolerate the situation when only 10 percent of the Kalashnikovs are manufactured legally,” said Sergey V. Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister. “We cannot stand for this. We must fight.”


US trademark registration for KALASHNIKOV for various apparel items and leather bags. Registration owned by a German company.

Another US registration for the same mark for other apparel, footwear, jewelry, and bath products. Mmm...Kalashnikov after-shave!

US trademark registration for KALASHNIKOV for alcoholic beverages, owned by a company in the UK. A pending application for the same mark, same owner, for various gaming services. Another pending application owned by the same UK company for the mark THE KALASHNIKOV DESIGN BUREAU (and design) for alcoholic beverages.

The same company also owns a US registration for the mark AK47 for alcoholic beverages, and a pending application for the same mark for gaming services.

US pending application for AK47 ACTION GEAR for jewelry and watches, owned by a US company.

AK-47, registered in the US for sport knives, and owned by a US company, Cold Steel, Inc.

I think it would be safe to assume that the KALASHNIKOV and AK-47 marks are the subject of various registrations in jurisdictions around the world. But are any of them for firearms?

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